Literary Visuality

Exploring the Visual Qualities of Literature

Walk the Line: Elizabeth Bowen, Linguistic Deviant

Last week I was delighted to present another aspect of my research on Elizabeth Bowen‘s verbal painting. This time it was my home institution’s very own School of English postgraduate conference, Bookends. Now in its sixth year and bearing the theme of “Deviance” the conference offered all involved the opportunity to indulge in the resultant thematic possibilities.

The 2012 edition of Bookends continued to celebrate the rich and diverse research interests, scholarly excellence and creative output of School of English postgraduates at University College Cork (UCC). Acting as co-organiser of the event (with Donna Maria Alexander, Miranda Corcoran and Katie Ahern), it was my great pleasure to chair an excellent plenary session on Dante delivered by my former tutor, Dr Leonard Madden.

Bookends VI: Deviance              30-31 May 2012

My own paper, which concluded the postgraduate panel Scopophilia!, was entitled “Painting with Words, Playing with Form: Elizabeth Bowen’s Linguistic Deviations”. Bowen had considered that she wanted to “make words do the work of line and colour” in her writing and, as such, in this paper I addressed the author’s careful design of her narratives from overall structure to the minutiae of syntax and punctuation.

Drawing on the art historical debate between Line (Disegno) and Colour (Colorito) I argued that,  in order to refocus the reader’s attention towards compositional appreciation, the irregularities and disruptive nature of Bowen’s prose style can and should be viewed as intentional. As such Bowen’s writing should be viewed as deliberately experimental and as fully realised works of verbal painting.

For more details of the panel, which was chaired by Katie Ahern and also included excellent scholarship from Kirsty March and Ian Murphy, check out the Live Blog from Bookends VI: Deviance. Alternatively, click here for more on Bookends.


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